Anxious??

Hello dear reader.

Its been a while, a part of me has yearned to write, but another part has been taken up with, well, living. Recently though anxiety has been on the forefront of my mind and tonight an invitation and a conversation pushed me to write.

Long ago friendships are those that will last forever, even if you don’t speak for years, only send a WhatsApp once a year or so, and on each of those times promise faithfully that the next year you will meet, e mail, and be super old fashioned and use the telephone. The friendships we have had since school are enduring and time does not erode the depth of them.

The invitation to the Bar Mitzvah in Switzerland landed on my door mat a couple of days ago, and all I can think is “I have to go” “It would be so amazing to reconnect to a friend who is and always has been so dear to me” and “ I know I will ask my other friend from a time oh so long ago if she would like to come on a girly trip with me ”

Then I pause.. the word airplane comes to mind.. my heart drops, it thuds the heavy beat of anxiety, my face falls, how can I even contemplate travelling by airplane? Driving on a motorway, staring white faced out of a speeding trains window is enough to make me switch to full panic mode, the chest pains, the shortness of breath the feeling that surely the car will be involved in a pile up, the train will be in a fatal collision, the panic of travelling by airplane is something I have long avoided.

I speak to hubby, I make him tell me how many flights take off a day throughout the world, how many crash, how much training pilots are given, how does it stay afloat, is there a chance of survival if the plane crashes, how many terrorist attacks have taken place this year on flights… he looks at me in bewilderment and reminds me he is an accountant not a aeronautical engineer.

The anxieties I have now are pretty new, a couple of years at most, the irrational fear of pigeons, of escalates with their yawning mouths, ready to slip you up.

I have thought that I am a severely anxious person, and one quiet day at work, taking one on line self diagnoses anxiety test after another I had labelled myself as severely anxious, unable to move from my bed due to the crippling fear of the world.

Thankfully, I have a very sensible therapist, whom advised me to print out the results and we ran through the questions together, well, it wasn’t very long before I realised with her help that actually I do not wake up in a cold sweat on a daily basis, full of fear and anxiety about the cruel world outside my front door. I am anxious, but no where near as far as Dr Google assured me I was.

So I ask myself, how anxious are we really? There are of course millions of people who suffer crippling anxiety, for whom opening their curtains in the morning is a feat that requires all their inner strength, but for those of us who assume we are highly anxious I think we need to take a step back, observe our surroundings, look at the reality.  How likely is it that I will step on to an escalator and go tumbling down, when was the last time a pigeon launched a ferocious, life endangering attack on me  or anyone… nope never opened a newspaper to the headline ” The country is on high alert as pigeons go on the attack”

The last few weeks I have come in to contact with some severely ill people, people who do not know the direction their life will take, who do not know what tomorrow holds, and have been inspired by them, by their determination, by their strength. I look at them and realise, that our lives are to short to be driven by anxieties. We control some of our destiny, we can take control of the things that are stopping us for living the life we should be.

I will endeavour to get on that plane, I will not look out the window, maybe I will take a tranquiliser or have a drink or 10 but if it is meant to be..I will be in Switzerland in a few weeks!

Chuss and have a great night.

Sara x

Mental Health Awareness Day.

Today is Mental Health Awareness Day.

From a personal view every day is mental health awareness day, and not only for me, but for the millions of people who live with a mental health condition.

It is an admirable endeavor, creating a day focused on Mental Health Awareness, but I find the similarities to other times where awareness is heightened and then forgotten about are clear, take Christmas for example where homelessness is the big “thing”, organizations like Shelter campaign tirelessly for the homeless, adverts tell us that £20 can pay for a meal, clothes and a shower for those on the streets, and then, Christmas comes and goes and those campaigns are forgotten about until the next year.

The same goes with Mental Health awareness, in one day we will all experience mental health in some form, whether it is healthy, positive mental health or unhealthy, developing in to illness, or need for some form of psychiatric help.

To a large extent unless a family member/community member/dr or friend takes action when someone’s mental health is suffering a person can go through incredible pain emotionally and physically, the age old stigma we have all heard, when discussing mental health sadly still applies, “why is mental health treated any differently to physical health” we all know that saying, we have probably used it in some form ourselves, yet the stigma is still strong, in fact I have been told not to write about mental health, to keep it quiet, as it is a shameful secret, and I wonder, and ask myself why, why after all these years, with all the information, mental health organizations, and awareness days is it still a shameful secret?

There are positive aspects though, and one of those is the organization I work for JAMI. JAMI is an organization focused on Mental Health Recovery, it focuses on the positive, the recovery rather than the negative. We have social workers, Occupational therapists, benefit advisors, support groups and so much more. I am honored to work for an organization where I see on daily basis clients arriving, feeling welcomed, knowing that no one will judge them, no one will view them as “different”, where people are treated with the respect all humans are entitled to.
It is an honor to work for an organization such as JAMI, and I have learned so much through my position here, I have learned that deep down we are all the same, we all crave care and love and respect for who we are.
Each person who comes through the door at JAMI know they are wanted and welcomed, no matter what stage of mental health they are at.
Mental Health awareness day is of course a necessity but until we all are able to stand up, be counted and accept our own and others mental health, there is still a long way to go.

FND

This is a hard one to write.

I have a problem with my breathing, having had scan after scan and test after test today I realised that it is more than likely a symptom of my FND.

This time last year I had never heard of FND, but now after my experience of loosing the use of my arm leg and speech for approx 10 days I have read quite a bit about it.

FND ( Functional Neurological Disorder) is still an unknown condition, sadly many GP’s do not have the knowledge or training to fully appreciate the disorder.

If I go to the Dr say with constant headaches, the Dr eventually sends me for an MRI, the MRI comes back normal, the Dr then concludes it is migraine. Does the Dr tell you that because all the tests were normal you are imagining it? The symptoms are in your head? One would hope not, but tragically many patients who have FND are still told that .

09F71DB0-E916-4538-8C53-F7AF03404FC5.jpegFND is slowly being more recognized, historically thought to be bought on by past trauma or recent trauma the symptoms are vast, worse case scenario, a sufferer looses the use of his arms legs or speech, tremors occur, tics, short temper , sleep disturbances, abnormal breathing, loss of muscle coordination, attacks of abnormal movement, loss of vision … the list goes on.

There are some illness’s that it’s accepted, probably even expected a patient will suffer from depression, for example a patient with multiple sclerosis may fear the future the uncertainty of not knowing how the illness will affect them as time goes by, but with FND there is a reluctance to talk about the depression or anxiety it can bring, along with the very real symptoms.

A person may be worried people will think it’s imagined, that they choose to be experiencing these symptoms that if they would just get over it they would be fine. The stigma of FND is akin to the stigma of mental health issues.

0D83F27C-F24E-4198-BABC-22DCFF3AF0E4.jpegFND is real. It is a neurological disorder that no one chooses to have .

It is not “in our heads”

It is not “ in our ability to get over it”

It affects people’s lives daily.

 

Knowing I have FND, has given me to some extent comfort, when my face twitches due to my breathing issues I know this is not “my fault”, putting a label on something can sometimes be a positive.

FND research and dr’s in general being given more specialized training is progressing, but there is a long way to go.

I am afraid of FND as it is so unknown, Every time I feel weakness in my arms and legs I ask myself is this FND and am I going to end up back in hospital unable to speak or move.

 

I would love your thoughts if you suffer from FND.

Lots of love

sara

Fighting it

Right now I’m fighting.

Fighting with my brain.

I managed almost a year with no episodes, the longest I have ever gone since being diagnosed.

Last night, out of the blue I had an episode, there were no warnings, my train of thought had been stable with no hint of mania or rapid thoughts, there was nothing  out of the ordinary to give me a chance to get home, get the help I know I need when I’m about to have an episode, take more medication and sleep it out.

This snuck up on me, though I should have realised as I wrote my last blog on therapy anxiety that writing about my therapist often means my Bi Polar monster is  yawning and stretching, getting ready to do battle with me, the obsessive thinking about my therapist , the googling her name etc… all classic warning signs, except there were no other signs, it hit me full force, one minute I was in the kitchen, doing what I needed to, next minute I was pacing up and down the bedroom freaking out on the phone to my 2 people who are my “ go to” when I’m unwell about the blinking cow that the meat I had just opened came from, now I’m a meat lover, could never actually be vegetarian!!  Give me meat anytime of the day and I’m your friend for life , so me freaking about the cow was super odd.

My episode only lasted an hour or two.

As I wrote in my blog my Bi Polar has changed . Last night it came on suddenly and just as suddenly receeded, I did not need to take an extra dose of meds or call a psychiatrist.

Today there are those thoughts, racing, irrational thinking but I am constantly, every minute fighting it and WILL NOT let it beat me!

My stratagies are

Keep busy

sleep

eat

relax

read

Acknowledge  the thoughts and then let them go.

I would  be really interested in hearing your strategies are ? How do you, when you know your thinking isn’t right, stop a full blown episode happening ?

Lots of love

sara

Therapy anxiety .. Just another anxiety ?

Therapy anxiety is not something I have thought about in any great detail in the past, we’ll that is until I realised I had it! Actually  I think I will have a quick google now and see if the concept exists .. ( BRB )

I’m back. My search resulted in millions of hits for therapy assisting with anxiety but I could not find one site with therapy anxiety as the subject.

Anxiety in general is debilitating, it can cause a person to become a hermit in so many ways, when I was a child there seemed to be a lot less to be anxious about, or maybe I was just clueless. Drugs, terrorisim, etc are massive stress factors.

So, Therapy anxiety, what is it . A therapist often has more in-depth knowledge of a client then their family, friends, colleagues may have . No one goes to a therapist to discuss the weather or what they eat for lunch that day. Therapy is heavy stuff, it takes courage, it takes exposing your most vulnerable insecurities, your soul is laid bare in front of another person.

The relationship is pretty much one sided, of course I know that a good therapist cares about her clients and truly wishes to assist with recovery of mental wellness in any way they can. But being so one sided brings up so many emotions.

Example, today I took my child to see my therapist, my therapist works with children and my child needed help. Before we left home I made sure my child’s : hair was brushed and neat. Clothes were clean . Teeth brushed. Hands washed and on and on ! Because I care so much how  my  therapist, knowing the insecurities I have about motherhood would view me as a mother .

Before I see my therapist I make sure I look ok . I often leave her hoping that she likes me, wonder what she thinks about me.

When we have a session where nothing major comes up, and it’s just day to day worries that are discussed, I worry that she feels I’m not worth her time or care as much as other clients , I worry that she thinks I am wasting her time, and I worry that she would not want to see me anymore. I worry that she thinks I am fat , I worry if my nails are not done and on and on.

I hear you ask, is this what therapy should be? How can it be helpful if you are this anxious about it, and isn’t it just adding to the so many anxieties you already have ?

The answer, I believe that a lot of people who are in long term therapy have these worries, but you, if you do have therapy anxiety know that the positives, the work towards building you as a confident, emotionally healthy person, the care shown by any good therapist outweighs the anxiety to a huge extent.

So, if your experiencing my new term ( which I will make sure is added to the Oxford dictionary!) Therapy anxiety know that you are not alone !

Lots of love

Sara

The finish line in the distance…

Its been around 4 years since I met my therapist, living in a tight knit community it was important to me that my therapist have some idea of the life I had led and the intricacies of community life, luckily a friend happened to be a friend of the person who would become my support, my crutch and my advisor for the next approx. 4 years.

She has been the one I have turned to whilst in shock, she has been the person whom I have trusted to hold so much of my pain and hurt.

When choosing a therapist I would advise seeking someone who understands your background and your way of life, although it can cause complications, my therapist for example has family in my neighbourhood, we have friends in common and so on, this can cause issues with boundaries, and can cause the client to become to attached and lines can be crossed. There have been times where I knew she was aware of things happening within my family, for example when a family member went missing and she was receiving messages from the community to keep an eye out for him, or when I am aware of certain things going on in her family, but it can be a great source of comfort and can make the whole therapy journey easier.

Seeing her for so many years on a regular basis, pretty much every week, sometimes every other week,  I have grown to feel very close to her ( In a purely therapeutic way!), that is why what is coming up is so very hard, but so necessary. I think the longest I have gone without seeing her is around 2 months, and it was so very hard.

The aim I feel, of therapy is to get to a point where you can end it, where you can say, the work has been done, I may have times I need to come back, but now I have the tools and skills to do this without my therapist.

It can be, and usually is a very scary thought for anyone who has been in therapy for a while to feel that the journey is nearing its end, you have opened your heart and soul, have bared your deepest thoughts and feelings and trusted this person with things you would not share with anyone else.  The feeling of closeness a person has with their therapist is so complex, it is a one sided relationship in the sense that whilst you may know basic things about your therapist, you will never spend time socially with them, you can never give back emotionally to them and will never be a part of their lives. Yet I am sure, that most therapists, who have been seeing a client for many years will naturally feel a closeness to the client, and I have for so long clung to the hope that this is how my therapist views me, and when the time comes to part, maybe, just maybe she will miss me.

There are signs to look out for that can point you in the direction you need, for example, when a person is not feeling great, whether they have a mental health issue which is affecting them, or living through a stressful time, they may automatically think about their therapist more, may even obsess about the therapist, especially with issues such as  bi polar which often causes obsessive thinking. At such times it is probably best not to be considering ending therapy as the thoughts if not dealt with in the correct way can escalate quickly, but, if on such occasions you are able to live with the thoughts, think about them in a rational, non emotional way and let the thoughts pass, you are probably on the path to reduce or end therapy.

Feeling anger at your therapist is also a good pointer, recently I have felt some anger at her, which is oddly enough a good thing, it means you are able to view your therapist as a human, realise that they also make mistakes and are not some other worldly, angelic figure you may have spent years idolising.

Another sign to look out for is feeling that the world is not coming to an end if you do not see your therapist for a couple of weeks, that you will not be sending him/her message after message and that even though you may think about them, may even send the odd message, the thought is ok, the feeling is not one of desperation, of feeling you will not cope until the next time you see them.

I will not be seeing her this week, and I did not see her last week, the thought is worrying me, and yes I am already storing things up to tell her, but I know that I can do it, the Bi Polar part of me is stable, I have learned and have the tools to deal with any near episodes, and whilst I know that I am not yet ready to completely bid her farewell, its a great feeling knowing that I am slowly, very slowly getting there.

Please do not end therapy if you are not 100% sure you are ready, take it slowly, figure it out together, and know with certainty that you can do this.

Out in the Cold.

Every year over the Chanukah/Christmas period, my family try to do something to show some care, love and appreciation for those who help us and those who are in need of some love. This year my daughter and her friend made up little bags of chocolate and put a little note in to each one, we then drove around and gave them to police officers etc.

We also handed some to some people who are homeless, though my ever so helpful (hmmmm)  husband did point out that “they would prefer money” I felt that being shown some care would be more important than money, and the reason I know this is because I have been there.

I can not claim to have been “hardcore” homeless, but there was a time I slept in  park… so creepy, a broken car, so cold, and so on. It is a time I would never want to go back to.

It is an undisputable fact that homelessness and mental health issues go hand in hand, mental health issues can make it much harder to cope with housing problems, and housing problems can make a persons mental health worse.

Being unable to cope with bills, relationships, substance or alcohol abuse and  day-to-day life can all lead to homelessness, and whilst on the street getting the help needed to combat the mental health issues can become impossible.

Switch on your Tv, radio or read a newspaper over the last few weeks and we will be bombarded with adverts reminding us of the plight of the homeless, seeing images of children on the street, can bring us to tears, for a second…until the advert finishes, shelter will talk about how a few pounds could give someone a bed, warm clothing, a bath on Christmas day, other organisations will talk about how we can open our home to someone for lunch, or with a quick text donate money to help… but it makes me remember and it makes me think…what about the rest of the year?

We are quick to judge, we see someone on the street with a cup held out, a sign that may say “please help…no food, no clothing, am cold” we may stop, we may dig in to our pockets, but how many of us think ” I wonder if he/she will be spending this on drugs etc” there is a great saying “do not judge others until you walk in their shoes, and as you will never walk in their shoes you can never judge” well… that person that you gave a few pennies to probable does not have a pair of shoes to call their own, so how much more so.

I once spoke with someone on the street who after buying a cup of coffee for told me a little of his story, he had a mental health issue that landed him in hospital, upon coming out he had nowhere to go, he was unable to find the help he needed so ended up wondering the streets, and had kept on wondering since.

Although at this time of year we all feel a little more caring and loving to our fellow-man, it’s so easy, whilst we sit in our home and talk about how cold it is out, how we turn up the thermostat a bit more that people are walking around the streets, in the sleet, in the snow, on ice, with nothing.

Women I think are naturally more vulnerable, and will resort to many a shameful thing in order to eat, in order to have a little bit of money in their hands.

As I remember my time out there, when I think, what I would really have needed, more than money, more than that cup of coffee, would have been for another human to stop, and talk to me, to make me feel I was worth something, anything, to make me feel that someone in the world saw me as a person, a person with something to contribute, rather than just a sack getting in the way on the street.

How wonderful it would be if next week and the week after and all the weeks after every person living on the street would have a conversation with someone who cares, a conversation with someone who may be able to ask “what do you need, that I would be able to help you get” and maybe change someone’s life for the better.

Wishing you all happiness over the holidays, but most of all warmth and love from the home that you are in.

 

speaking of statistics

I know some people when writing their blogs like to research their chosen subject, quote facts, figures and statistics, but in general I like to write from the heart, my own words and thoughts, which is why, there may be a few  grammatical errors and spelling mistakes ( I do check and re check my writing, but it has been mentioned that I miss some at times sorry folks) but this evening the urge compelled me to hop on to Professor Google and acquire some facts and figures, and here my dear readers is what I have learned.

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) ” One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”
  • Currently, more than 33% of countries allocate less than 1% of their total health budgets to mental health, with another 33% spending just 1% of their budgets on mental health. A limited range of medicines is sufficient to treat the majority of mental disorders. About 25% of countries, however, do not have the three most commonly prescribed drugs used to treat schizophrenia, depression and epilepsy at the primary health care level. There is only one psychiatrist per 100 000 people in over half the countries in the world, and 40% of countries have less than one hospital bed reserved for mental disorders per 10 000 people.
  • According to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) “Mental health problems account for almost a quarter of the total burden of illness in this country – more than either cancer or heart disease – and one in four of us will experience at least one such condition in our lives.Amongst the most common mental health conditions people seek treatment for are depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic attacks.
  • The British Journal of Psychiatry writes the following ” There is evidence that the vast majority of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their death, and up to a third have had recent contact with mental health services (Foster et al, 1997). For the latter group, the period of greatest risk for suicide is in the first few weeks following discharge from hospital. Data on over 2000 suicides among people in contact with mental health services from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide reveal that a quarter of all deaths occur within the first 3 months of discharge from psychiatric hospital (Appleby et al, 1999b). It is estimated that almost 1% of those discharged from in-patient psychiatric care will kill themselves in the year following their discharge (Goldacre et al, 1993). Such deaths account for 10% of all suicides in the UK (Lewis et al, 1997). The rate of suicide is highest in the first few days after discharge from hospital, with 41% occurring before the first follow-up appointment (Appleby et al, 1999a).The relationship between admission to hospital and suicide has been studied in greater detail among people with schizophrenia. Rossau & Mortensen (1997) examined the characteristics of 508 people who were admitted to hospital for treatment of first-episode schizophrenia in Denmark between 1970 and 1987. The rate of suicide was found to be highest in the 6 months following admission to hospital. It was higher following the first admission to hospital than following subsequent admissions and was also noted to be higher after discharge from general medical and surgical wards.

Everything I have read tonight has made me ponder, where are we going wrong? why are the provisions for Mental Health issues so poor, the care so dire that we have a third of people who commit suicide being in contact with Mental Health services up to 3 months before?

Even if we bring the stigma and lack of understanding of Mental Health in to play surely medical science has developed to a level where Dr’s ranging from professors to GP’s would have a basic understanding of how the mind works?

I feel, having experienced first hand the travesty that is Mental Health Services it all starts with the hospital, if hospitals were better staffed, If hospital staff were better trained, qualified mental health professionals the lives of those suffering would be so much more valued.

My last hospital admission was approx. 2.5 years ago, the room was covered in filth, bed sheets stained, the staff were cold, distant people, who carried themselves with the arrogance of one who knows he has all the power, one member of staff would sit with us, and bemoan her lot in life, telling us (the patients) how she hated her job, we were treated as subhuman, people would have to beg to talk to a staff member, to be taken out for a cigarette ( the only joy that some in the ward had) or to see a DR.

Of course some hospitals are better than others, but the fact remains, even if a Psych ward does not look like a prison, even if the doors do not have bars on, even if they can go for a walk (accompanied ), have visitors, bring in their own items from home ( most of which are confiscated on arrival) they are not an equal, their illness is not seen in the same way as for example a cancer patient is seen.

 

Until Psychiatirc issues are addressed by government and the funds poured into resarch and development the amount of people suffering with mental Health issues will keep growing, and the age range will widen.

Until Psych wards are run with the respect, cleanliness, care and kindness that is a must in any other hospital, nothing will change, people will leave a ward and do as a girl I was once in hospital with… walk to the nearest train station and jump on the tracks, people will still suffer in silence, until, at their darkest moment they will jump.

 

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